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What’s Behind a Racial Category? Uncovering Heterogeneity Among Asian Americans Through A Data-Driven Typology


Despite emphasis on the importance of intragroup heterogeneity in much theoretically inclined migration and race scholarship, quantitative research routinely relies on split sample approaches in which ethnoracial groups are the categories of analysis. This cumulatively contributes to the reification of groups under study when research findings are assessed and groups compared side by side. In this paper, we ask: how are Asian Americans internally differentiated, and how does this heterogeneity matter for broader patterns of immigrant inclusion? Using latent class analysis, we produce a typology at the intersection of class, gender, regional location and immigrant generation, pointing to vulnerable, ordinary, hyperselected, rooted and achieving Asian Americans. These subgroups reveal differentiation in the experience of race and suggest that racialization and inclusion dynamics are jointly occurring social forces among Asian Americans. Our approach offers a blueprint for inductive analyses of immigrant-origin groups emphasizing heterogeneity and reflexivity vis-à-vis racial and national-origin categories.

RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences